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Stepping-Stone or Dead End: To What Extent Does Part-Time Employment Enable Progression Out of Low Pay for Male and Female Employees in the UK?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2019

Department of Social Policy and Social Intervention, University of Oxford, UK email:


Using data from Understanding Society and the British Household Panel Survey, this article explores the relationship between working part-time and progression out of low pay for male and female employees using a discrete-time event history model. The results show that working part-time relative to full-time decreases the likelihood of progression out of low pay, defined as earning below two-thirds of the median hourly wage. However, part-time workers who transition to full-time employment experience similar rates of progression to full-time workers. This casts doubt on the idea that part-time workers have lower progression rates because they have lower abilities or work motivation and reinforces the need to address the quality of part-time jobs in the UK labour market. The negative effect of working part-time is greater for men than for women, although women are more at risk of becoming trapped in low pay in the sense that they tend to work part-time for longer periods of time, particularly if they have children. Factors such as childcare policy and Universal Credit (UC) incentivise part-time employment for certain groups, although in the right labour market conditions UC may encourage some part-time workers to increase their working hours.

© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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